Samantha Eggar (the Brood, Curtains, the Exterminator) is the snarky wife of archaeologist Roy Jenson (Soylent Green). Summoned to his side just when they unearth a sinister “devil’s hand” that scares away the native workers, she more or less stands around watching as her husband gets possessed by the artifact and becomes a whoring gambler, is kidnapped by casino grifters (whom he then kills with hand-derived super strength) and attempts suicide in a fiery explosion.
But when his body appears to have crawled its way out of the grave, the local priest (Stuart Whitman), police (Lew Saunders) and town doctor (Narciso Busquets) are drawn into a round robin chain of possessions and murders.
Feeling very much akin to an Italian horror of the period ala Filmirage, Demonoid comes across as some ersatz kin to Umberto Lenzi’s Hell’s Gate, Lucio Fulci’s Demonia and Lamberto Bava’s Graveyard Disturbance by way of Frank Agarama’s Dawn of the Mummy: all superstitious natives, easily accessible tombs filled with mummies and ancient curses. There’s even a touch of Jaws of Satan if not The Omen spicing up the mix.
It’s all sort of 70’s TV movie-ish, complete with a stunt-filled cop show car chase that calls things like McMillan & Wife, Kojak and Starky & Hutch to mind, but with a slightly upped degree of grue and some decided Italian horror aesthetic if not influence, as noted hereinabove. It’s fun, somewhat obscure and a definite treat to fans of the cult entertainment of its era.
Eggar is definitely starting to show her age, and while she does possess a few notable cult film credits in her resume, is hardly the “queen of horror” the director/producer refers to her as in the extras here. Whitman is rather blasé about the affair, playing his presumably drunken priest with a decidedly laconic flair and silly Irish brogue he slips out of so often, you almost forget it’s there.
But does it really matter? This is an old school early 80’s horror film with equal influences of Euro (and particularly Italian) Z-grade horror, 70’s TV (horror) movie and cop/detective show – characterization and acting come in as a distant third, welcome if present but entirely inessential if not extraneous to the entertainment value hereof.
In addition to the film, you get “the Devil’s Hand”, a 14m chat with director Alfredo Zacarias, where he discusses the difficulties attendant to the production (including his utter lack of experience in film marketing and one of the more religious actors getting into a deep philosophical debate about his role in the film), and a second disc (standard definition DVD) of the alternate (and strangely, 15 minute longer!) “softer” variant of the film, Macabra.
Vinegar Syndrome delivers another cult obscurity in a crisp, vibrant print sure to please aficionados of this sort of thing, present company decidedly inclusive.